2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship
Round 15 – COTA
That was probably the smartest race Fabulous has ridden since the last time he used his brains instead of his massive balls.
Not to take anything away from Marquez – but since he’s not in the title hunt, there was no need for Fabulous to hunt him down, and so he didn’t. And by being smart, he may be able to wrap his title up at the next round.
The weekend began under a pall. Vinales’s cousin, Dean Berta, had been tragically killed during the Supersport 300 race in Jerez a few days earlier, and Maverick decided to sit this round out.
The rest of them were greeted with a wet track for FP1. That did not faze Marquez at all. He was immediately two-seconds quicker than everyone else.
But as the track dried for the remaining Practice sessions, the ritual complaining started. The Circuit Of The Americas is a bumpy bastard. Riders have been complaining about it for ages. The fourth sector had been resealed for this year’s round, and everyone agreed the grip was good there, and crap everywhere else.
Marquez, who rules COTA like Sauron ruled Mordor, just shrugs and gets on with it. He was fastest in FP1 and FP2. Miller was fastest in FP3, just ahead of Taka Nakagami, who was showing an admirable pace on a dry track, as was Rins, who won here last time they raced when Marquez binned it while leading.
When Qualifying One rolled around, Aleix Espargaro amused the crowds by crashing his aching Aprilia for the fourth time that weekend – even managing two stacks in ten minutes. You could almost hear the tantrum-tools being thrown around the Aprilia garage.
Marini and Mir managed to squeeze into Q2, just nudging a still unfit Morbidelli out. Franco struggles getting his healing knee back onto the peg after hanging it out approaching a corner.
Rossi languished at the back of the pack, just a touch ahead of Petrucci, who is already planning his Dakar assault for next year.
Qualifying Two saw Pecco Bagnaia on pole, ahead of Fabulous and Marquez, with Martin, Taka, and a freshly de-arm-pumped Zarco completing the second row. Miller was back in 10th.
When the lights went out, Marquez left everyone in his wake. Fabulous tracked him, looking to see if the usual chinks in Marquez’s once-impregnable armour would appear.
Rins was hyper aggressive in the opening lap, as was Taka, who past Mir, and Jack also looked promising.
But a COTA lap is long and a COTA lap is hard, and as the first one of 20 ended, Marquez was solidly in the lead, followed by Fabulous, Rins, Martin, Bagnaia, and Taka who was taking it to Pecco.
Martin, in fourth, was the fastest man on the track and making life hard for third-placed Rins, and then Bagnaia in sixth, was the fastest man on the track and starting to close on Martin in fifth.
Three laps in, and Martin made his move on Rins for third place down the straight. Rins immediately struck back, but it was a done deal. Martin would reel Rins back in and pass him three corners later to secure third place behind Fabulous and Marquez.
Marc Marquez was not setting a blistering pace at this stage, circulating in the 2m05s, so Fabulous was easily keeping him honest, as Zarco flung himself into the gravel like Napoleon into the Russian winter.
Miller grabbed fifth off Bagnaia, and started to look at Rins in fourth, just as Marquez upped the ante a touch. He was only 0.7-seconds ahead of Fabulous at this stage, but that gap was not being closed down, and it was clear Fabulous was weighing the situation up. His pit board was telling him where Bagnaia was – and rightly so. This could not be about beating Marquez. It was about crucial points in the championship.
Jack then passed Rins, and sat himself in fourth, clearly feeling he had Martin’s measure as well. But Marquez had the measure of them all and started to pile it on. He was now a second ahead of Fabulous and was not going to be caught.
Bagnaia rode backwards for a bit, and then settled in sixth place as the field stretched itself out in a bit of a procession approaching the halfway point of the race.
Marquez was now two-seconds ahead of Fabulous and Martin, with Jack in fourth, a mere half-a-second behind the hazel-eyed rookie.Which is when Aleix chalked up crash number five for the weekend, and disassembled his Aprilia in Turn 13.
Pecco had collected enough of his wits to start pressuring Rins for fifth place, as Marquez extended his lead over Fabulous, and was now the only rider lapping in the 2:04s. Everyone else was in the 2:05s.
As the race entered its second half, Pecco began to work his way up to Jack. And Jack, the consummate team-mate and true to his word of promising to help Pecco, allowed him past. Now that’s not something we see all that often in MotoGP. Team-orders aren’t much of a thing these days – at least not publicly, but I reckon Jack did this off his own bat, and good on him.
And so Pecco set off in pursuit of Jorge Martin, hopeful for a podium. Jack, meanwhile, was now engaged in red battle with Rins, and with six laps left, Rins made a pass stick in Turn 15, and sat himself in fifth place.
In the closing stages of the race, things started to resolve themselves in a wondrous way. The Beast, having started way back in 16th on a Ducati made in the 1800s, had once again clawed his way towards the business end, and was now eagerly shadowing Miller and Mir, in 5th and 6th respectively.
Just ahead of them, Martin outbraked himself, cut across a turn, and let Pecco close right up on him. And then Race Direction back-handed the rookie and gave him a Long Lap Penalty into the bargain. This cost him two places. He ended up in fifth, behind Bags in third and Rins in fourth.
Mir, for his part, fed Jack some fairing, threw them both off line, and allowed the Beast through to grab sixth spot. Jack was clearly livid, since this was not the first time Mir had over-extended himself with Jack.
Jack remonstrated with Joan after the race, even grabbing the chin-piece of his helmet when the finger-pointing was not enough. Mir was a bit wide-eyed in his pit after the race – especially after Race Direction slapped him as well, demoting him a place.
But it was all Marquez, who was clearly very happy to grab his second win of the season at one of his favourite tracks. He says he’s still not 100 per cent, and that’s as may be. Who knows how it would have turned out if Fabulous opted for balls rather than brains.
As it is, Fabulous may wrap his title up when they reconvene at Misano in two weeks. It’s by no means a done-deal yet. But it sure is close to being signed, sealed and delivered.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.